So, prompted by a discussion I had Kenaz Filan on his blog, it got me to thinking about animism in an urban setting.
This is not really a new idea. There have been books before that brought up this concept, and based upon my own study of chaos magick, there is an intention of interacting with the metaphysical in whatever environment you are in. A communion with the spiritual forces and the spirits that occupy the urban landscape and yet so often the urban landscape is rejected while the people in it seek an escape to a “natural” environment. This, I think, is more of a reflection of the pastoral fantasy people carry in their head, that being in “nature” is better, closer to perfection, and more authentic. However, I see the urban landscape as a natural environment, created by the animal who needs it to live, namely, humanity.
Humans are a part of nature, and yet so often the works and creations of humans are dismissed as “man-made” and “unnatural.” Yet, so often it seems that it is forgotten that humanity is as much a part of nature as any other animal, many of which change their environment to make it more suitable for them. So in the cities and metropolises that humanity has created, we are participating in a natural environment that we have created to make it more suitable for us as a species, but also that other animals have adapated to living in these environments as well. These are the animals we live and are surrounded by on a regular basis, even though we don’t always recognize or even see them most of the time, but when some of them are seen, the illicit strong responses from humanity.
But not only the animals, but the landscape itself also has consciousness. Buildings, roads, cities, districts, vehicles, structural materials can all be seen as having a spiritual essence, and so a spiritual intelligence that can be communed, allied, fought or negotiated with, much as a spirit worker in any culture would have to interact with and being the herald and diplomat for the his community with their environment. Yet if often seems that the urban spirit workers don’t engage with the spirits of their environment, from the animals that also live in it with humanity, to the spirits that are connected to the homes and structures they live and work in, to the roads they travel, or even to the city itself. These spiritual intelligences are neglected, in favor of the pastoral mystique, of majestic wild animals far removed from the workers environments, animals that many of these workers will never experience first hand in their natural environment.
Of course the spirits of the land have become part of the spirits of the city that covers it. One could just as well connect with the spirit of Los Angeles, or seek the spirits that serve within it, such as Hollywood, Koreatown, or even Downtown LA. Within those are the spirits of buildings themselves, from the spirit that governs your home, to the office building you may work in all have spirits that can be cajoled, placated, and interacted with. Some might be very strong, old and wise, while others might be very young, and enjoy having the attentions of the local spirit-worker who brings them offerings to make them stronger, and so help her community.
Even more local and specific are the ghosts and lost souls that wander in the urban landscape. Often the older the city, the more ghosts there are, as stories are told of the house where people were died and they return and are seen, to the street where an old gunfight occurred. I was told by a friend once that the lost dead wander the alleys of cities, and thus to avoid allies at night as much as possible, otherwise you might find yourself with a companion following you. Of course cemeteries exist with the city, the places designated where people are laid to rest. The dead can be accessed there, although you might want to learn some of the rules followed by various cultures that are friendly with the dead on how to interact with them. But ghosts can be found in many other places across the city, as most older places have stories associated with them, and sometimes after building have been torn down and replaced, the ghosts of the prior building linger on, to continue to haunt the new building.
These are just examples of the many crossroads that spiritual beings make with humanity, and with the spirit-workers among humanity. Suffice to say that there is much to be experienced within the spiritual landscape of an urban environment. Wisdom, allies, aid can all be gained by connecting with the spirits around you, and as the spirits of the land and personal environment play a more direct role, they are spirits worth communing with.